DOVER, N.H. – In December, Planning Board member Kirt Schuman retired from the Board after 15 years of service to the City of Dover. On Friday, June 7, he received the 2019 Citizen Planner of the Year award by the New Hampshire Planners Association. The organization made the presentation at its annual conference in Rye.
“I accept this award with gratitude and it’s rewarding to see the progress in Dover today that was set in motion with policy changes over a decade ago,” Schuman said. “Good communities coalesce around a vision only when it is built by its residents and stakeholders. I am proud of the process we have always had in place in Dover to ensure everyone’s voice is equal.”
The NH Planner’s Association (NHPA) award annually recognizes citizen planners from New Hampshire for their advancement to the science and art of planning and commitment to community involvement through planning initiatives. The New Hampshire Planners Association promotes, assists, and supports professional planners in the State with the goal of achieving planning excellence to improve the quality of life today and tomorrow in New Hampshire’s communities. The Citizen Planner of the Year is a reflection of that ideal, and is sought annually through nominations.
The NHPA selection committee recognized that Schuman not only encouraged innovative planning in Dover, but also recognized his commitment to public outreach and having a professional demeanor on the Board, treating applicants, abutters, staff and other Board members all as stakeholders wishing to see the best project possible.
Schuman served for 15 years on the Planning Board, including as the vice chair and chair. In addition to his work with the Planning Board, Schuman has served on various Master Plan steering committees, Main Street and Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce committees, Joint Building committees, parking review committees and currently serves on the Architectural Design Standards Review Committee. He led the community committee that designed the downtown parking system and ultimately led to the construction of the much-needed downtown parking garage. He was also instrumental in the early planning for the Dover Community Trail.
“While my name is on this award, it would not have been possible without the support of my family, my fellow board members, city staff and all the residents who have taken part in the planning process,” Schuman said. “Being involved is a family commitment and I share my gratitude for all of the spouses and children who have had an empty seat at the dinner table because of someone in their family giving back to their community. This award is as much for them as it is for those of us who serve on boards and committees.”
In supporting the nomination, Mayor Karen Weston wrote about Schuman’s commitment to public discourse, “while he was Chair of the Board from 2016-2018, I appreciated that he encouraged the Board to improve its communication with residents and property owners as well as applicants.”
Councilor Dennis Ciotti, a long-term member of the Planning Board and City Council, noted similar contributions by Schuman in his letter of support, “While Kirt served on the Planning Board he was a constant source of professionalism, understanding that the Board needs to respect the rights of applicants and property owners. He expected a level of decorum among Board members, always encouraged debate and discussion and expected a high level of public engagement, which has become the hallmark of the development process in Dover.”
Current Chair Gina Cruikshank, who served as vice chair with Schuman, praised him for his vision. “The Board benefited from his desire to have Dover be at the forefront of planning issues,” she said. She noted Schuman’s advocacy to promote Dover’s progressive planning program, including his attention to the long-range Master Plan work, and reconsideration of parking calculations and climate adaptation.
"Having Kirt recognized for his professionalism and his constant focus on the community, and his desire to have Dover lead, by our New Hampshire peers is a reflection on the professionalism and commitment the planning volunteers and staff deliver to the Dover community day in and day out," said Assistant Manager Christopher Parker, who oversees planning activities in the City. “It has been a pleasure to work with Kirt over the past 15 years, and I hope to see him return to the Board or in an ad hoc role at some point in the future.”
The New Hampshire Planner’s Association has recognized Dover’s planning efforts before. In 2010, the City’s Form Based Code project for downtown Dover was recognized as the Project of the Year, and in 2011, Director of Planning and Community Development Christopher Parker was recognized as the Professional Planner of the Year, and in 2014 City Planner Steve Bird was recognized as the Professional Planner of the Year. 2016 saw recognition of the Downtown Pedestrian and Vehicular Access Plan as Plan of the Year, and in 2018 the City’s Climate Adaptation Chapter of the Master Plan was named Plan of the Year.